The 20-Something’s Guide to Creating a Five-Year Plan

By The Intersect Group

You may be a year to two away from the “quarter-life crisis,” or you may be in its throes.

You may be two or three years out of college and wondering, “Is this all there is? I’m not sure I chose the right career.”

You may be 27, have received a promotion or two, and yet the excitement of the world of work/careers has started to wane.

As the years pass by after college graduation…

…many people in their first years of “real world” work discover one or more things:

  • They love what they do but find the excitement waning; it’s the same-old, same-old. (“Is this REALLY all there is?”)
  • They see that the career they once LOVED requires just too much work – providing no chance for a personal life – and they wonder if they really want to continue doing the 10-14 hour days For. The. Rest. Of. Their. Lives.
  • They see that the career they chose is not the right one for them now as they’ve changed a ton since they graduated college.
  • And so on.

 And the pandemic certainly hasn’t helped

The Federal Reserve Board has found that 33 percent of people in their early 20s (GenZ) and 25 percent of millennials (mid-20s to late-30s), lost a job due to the pandemic (compared to just 14 percent of people in their late-50s/mid-70s (Boomers who haven’t yet retired). Thus, they are worried that a long gap in their work history will hurt them moving forward.

What’s more, another study released in May 2020 found that younger people reported much higher rates of mental distress than older people.

Quarter-life crisis defined

We like Forbes’ definition of the angst you may be going through now: when “your life is not what you thought it was going to be. It’s an emotional crisis of identity and self-confidence.”

How a five-year plan can help

Whether you’re

  • stressed due to how the pandemic upended your work life;
  • finding that the world of day-to-day work, unfortunately, has become just as your parents said it would – predictable;
  • discovering that you hate your job and need to find another one pronto before it eats your soul to the core;
  • realizing that you’re not getting any younger and if you’re going to backpack the globe/start a business as you’ve always dreamed, it’s easier to do so now before marriage and kids come into the picture;
  • or you just want to “figure it all out”….

…a five-year plan can be the ticket to clarity.

(Note: The things you want will change. You’ll realize that the goals you HAD to meet in your 20s – but don’t – become SO much less important as you reach your 30s and beyond. Hopefully, this makes you feel a bit better and less stressed.)

Creating ‘the plan”

The most important step in creating a plan is to realize that it won’t move as you think it will. Things will come up. Interests and circumstances change. So your very first step in the plan’s creation is to “be flexible.”

Step 1: Brainstorm what you want in life.

This is where you can be as creative, wacky, out-of-this-world as you want. Think big. Everything is on the table. Don’t censor yourself.

Remember to not only think about your career but your personal and emotional/spiritual life.

Step 2: List your skills and experience.

This perhaps is the easiest part of the plan’s creation: you know what you know, you know what you can do (skills), and you know what you’ve done (experience).

Then take a look at all of them and see how it relates to the things you want to do as you listed in your brainstorming session.

Step 3: Research the ideas you wrote down in Step 1.

This probably is the longest step in the plan’s creation as you may have a lot of different interests/ideas/goals. As you research, look at what you need to do to attain them: more education, more skills, need to move somewhere new? What are the associated direct costs (tuition, move to a more expensive city, etc.)?

As you research, pay attention to your emotions. Are you finding that a great desire is becoming less desirable as you find out the costs/actions needed, etc.? Or are you undeterred? (That’s probably a sign that the goal/task/thing is something you definitely want to do, obstacles or no obstacles.)

As you research, make a list of people you need to talk to who can give you real-world insight into living them, provide advice on how to attain them, and so on.

Don’t worry that people won’t want to talk to you: most people are delighted to provide insight/advice. (People love being thought of as a guru.)

Step 4: Refine your goals/desires.

We can do anything we want; we just can’t do everything we want. And we can’t do everything at the same time.

Choices, therefore, must be made.

A five-year plan makes this a bit easier because you may only want to decide on goals that can be completed in five years or less.

(Or, if a goal can’t be completed in five years, create a sub-goal within it that CAN be met in five years.)

So determine what things you want to pursue first. They may be the easiest, the cheapest, the ones that have a definite deadline to them, and so on.

Number the goals in importance (the most critical or time-bound first).

Step 5: Create steps/goals/a timeline for each goal).

Consider making them SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound).

You’ll want to create a timeline for each goal so that you’ll know that when you reach a particular goal/step, you can then move on to the next.

Consider creating sub-goals for each (weekly, quarterly, yearly, etc.). Doing so allows you to track how well you’re doing in achieving your larger goals.

Step 6: Start doing the steps necessary to reach your goals.

In other words, you made the plan; now work it.

Step 7: Revisit your goals every six months/a year.

You may find that your desires have changed…again! They often do. Checking in with your goals will also help ensure that you’re on track to meeting them.

Looking to explore something of a career change?

Taking on temporary or contract job assignments can be a great way to see if a career goal is right for you. The Intersect Group has many such opportunities in finance/accounting and  IT.

Take a look at our current opportunities and apply for those that appeal to you. Also, don’t forget to register with us for future openings!